Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Auschwitz, or Someplace Like It

Prominent people who make historical gaffes actually do us all a favor without meaning to. They send a generation of bright but uninformed pundits scurrying for reference material, the better to pile on the unfortunate gaffer -- and to make sure they don't make such a mistake themselves.

And so, as in this case, they will discover that "Auschwitz" is not the only name on the horror roll, and that "Buchenwald," officially a camp for POWs, dissidents, insurgents, and people from suspected minority groups, is on the list, too.

Mr. TYLER McKENNEY PAYNE (British Soldier): I'm Tyler McKenney Payne of the ... (unintelligible). I live at Mansfield Woodhouse. I want to tell you a tale, just one tale, as there are many other horrible sights in the past days that I saw. I myself was guarding the milk store, and around this milk store was a screaming crowd of women with babies. I kept picking a few babies out and feeding them.

And one woman who was--I think she was mad, kept kissing my feet and clothing, so I took the baby from her. When I looked at the baby, his face was black and he had been dead for a few days. I couldn't come to say it was dead so I burst the milk can opened and poured milk down through its dead lips. The woman crooned and giggled with delight. I gave her the baby back and she staggered off and lay in the sun. And when I next looked, she was dead with the baby in her arms. So I put her in the stack of the dead bodies, 2 or 300 dead, and then I turned away. I was allowed to say that I'm a British soldier and it's not propaganda; it's the truth.

So, maybe people who only have known the Billy Joel version of history will get a little glimpse of something deeper. And maybe they will want to revisit afresh their assertions that Guantanamo Bay is exactly like a Nazi concentration camp.